BUFFALO – In his early days as general manager, Kevyn Adams began reshaping the Sabres by trading established assets.
Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen all fetched hefty returns and have helped the Sabres compile a deep and talented stable of prospects.
As the Sabres have developed into a playoff contender this season, Adams has learned how much other teams covet their young talent.
As a buyer prior to Friday’s trade deadline, an unusual position, he said prospects Matt Savoie and Jiri Kulich, two of the three forwards they selected in the first round in 2021, “were nonstarters in conversations.”
Adams was asked specifically about Savoie, the ninth overall pick, and Kulich, the 28th pick, during his chat with the media Friday. It’s probably fair to lump Noah Ostlund, the 16th pick last year, and some other prospects in the off-limits category.
“Believe me, I’m really excited about the prospect pool we have and so is the rest of the league, because there were a lot of questions about … not just those two but others,” Adams said.
Adams has made it clear he won’t make short-term moves that could hurt the Sabres’ future.
Early in Adams’ tenure after he took over as GM in 2020, they lacked young assets like they have now.
“When you’re trying to start to build your team and your franchise, and then you’re trying to start having conversations, it’s challenging if you don’t have assets,” he said.
Now the Sabres, who host superstar Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers tonight at KeyBank Center, have a pool of high-end prospects. If a team can’t grab one in a trade, they might look elsewhere.
When the Ottawa Senators acquired defenseman Jakob Chychrun last week in exchange for conditional first- and second-round picks and a second-rounder, some observers wondered why the Sabres wouldn’t give that up. Adams wanted to pry Chychrun, 24, away from the Arizona Coyotes, right?
Well, teams don’t ask every potential trade partner for the same return. Adams acknowledged the Coyotes wanted more from the Sabres.
You can bet Savoie and Kulich were requested.
“You have to be careful whether it’s as a fan, or anyone just saying, ‘Well, if this team traded for this, then we should have done it,” Adams said. “That’s not the way it typically works. … There is a line that we would draw in a situation like that, as we got to that spot, that we are not going over. We’re not in a situation where we feel that we had our backs against the wall, desperate.
“I am thrilled to death that there’s an absolute arms race going on in the East over the last couple of weeks, and just there’s high prices, and I get it. But I think that we wanted to be really careful with that, too.”
Savoie, 19, has enjoyed a standout junior season with the Western Hockey League’s Winnipeg Ice, scoring 33 goals and 82 points in 55 games.
“Matt, he’s a Sabre,” Adams said. “He’s our type of player. The kid’s just a puck hound, relentless, plays at top speed, and it’s why we took him so high.”
Meanwhile, Kulich, 18, has compiled 16 goals and 34 points in 45 outings with the Rochester Americans. Teenagers, of course, rarely have that much success in the AHL.
“What Jiri has done in the American League at 18 years old is pretty special and very rare,” Adams said.